Problem-Solving Success Tip: Plan for Things to Go Wrong
by Jeanne Sawyer
Plan for things to go wrong.
We've heard it before, and it's still true: if something can go wrong, it will. Figure out ahead of time where your problem solving effort is vulnerable and develop appropriate contingency plans. Start on this as soon as you begin the problem-solving effort, making it a normal part of defining a problem.
Vulnerabilities are all the things that could prevent your problem-solving project from succeeding. Typical vulnerabilities include changing priorities, inadequate resources (people, money, time), staff turnover, key players unable or unwilling to participate, other projects not getting completed on time, etc. Of course, the list will be different for each problem, and the probability that any particular vulnerability will occur varies as well. The key is to identify them, and assess each one for probability of occurrence and impact on the project if it should occur.
Develop contingency plans immediately for any that have both a high probability of occurring and a high impact. You may also want to develop contingency plans for low probability/high impact issues. Low impact issues, especially if the probability is low, are probably not worth significant contingency planning.
You will need to monitor your environment throughout the problem-solving project so that you'll know early if any of the vulnerabilities show signs of occurring. Your monitoring program should always include regular communication with all participants in your problem-solving project as well as with the leaders of any projects you are depending on. You'll want to let these people know either that everything is on track or, if a vulnerability is materializing, that you know about it, are executing an appropriate contingency plan, and understand what implications there are for the problem-solving effort as a whole.
Copyright 2007. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.
Jeanne Sawyer is an author, consultant, trainer and coach who helps her clients
solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational
disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are
excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving
Problems Permanently. Find out about it, and get more free information on
problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/.